By Nicholas von Wettberg
Picking up where they left off in June, the Davis School Board will hear a district-led presentation on ways to close the achievement/opportunity gap.
Up for discussion, and possible action, at the upcoming meeting on Thursday is the topic of preschool – the impact it has on the achievement/opportunity gap, what the Davis climate is like, and some of the district’s ideas on current and future programs.
According to the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD)-provided syllabus, recommendations are in store.
And, in accordance with the state funding mechanisms, the district is meeting goals, in both its Strategic Plan and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).
These are the alignments of Strategy 1 and LCAP Goal 1, which are to “develop, implement, and assess a Professional Growth System consistent with our mission and objectives, focusing first on social-emotional intelligence, differentiated instruction and inquiry-based learning.”
The other pair of goals met, through the action, is Strategy 3 and LCAP Goal 3, that “will develop and implement a district-wide assessment system aligned with the Common Core Standards to effectively analyze student performance data at more frequent intervals in order to improve instruction, close the achievement gap, and ensure that all students meet or exceed district standards.”
In the report, district staff will reemphasize the point that preschool programs are capable of providing students with lasting benefits, such as “school readiness” and “improved cognitive and social abilities,” and are especially effective for kids placed in the low-income category.
It is in the preschool setting, according to the report (referencing information provided by the Center for National Progress and National Institute for Early Childhood Education), where proper instruction relies upon “supportive interaction” between teacher and student, with a focus on the implementation of the curriculum, and, all the while, receiving support “through coaching and mentoring.”
Using national achievement gap data, the report shows that, by the time African American, Hispanic and low-income kids enter kindergarten, they sit significantly behind the eight ball when it comes to math and reading skill levels, compared with whites and higher income peers.
For African Americans, the gap was 8.9 months for math and 6.7 months in reading, and, for Hispanics, the gap was wider: 10.8 months in math and 11.5 months behind in reading.
Children on the low end of the income scale suffer most when it comes to school preparedness.
According to the data, children in the low-income bracket (household incomes at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines) lag behind an entire school year, on average, in reading – compared to peers of higher incomes (household incomes above 200% FPG).
Lower income kids are, on average, 11.2 months behind in math and 13 months behind in reading.
Another table in the report (also courtesy of the Center for National Progress and National Institute for Early Childhood Education) focuses on the estimated reduction in national achievement gap numbers that would result from the implementation of a high-quality universal preschool program (UPK).
With a UPK in place, the projected gap (months of learning) decreases considerably, across the board.
Most notably, the estimated reduction in months of learning for Hispanic readers would drop over 12 months, leaving them with no achievement gap at all (-0.67).
For the sub-group low income versus high income, the projected rate of progress – were there a universal preschool program in place – is solid (27% reduction in months of learning in math and 41% in reading), but comes nowhere close to the drop experienced by African American kids entering kindergarten, who, after a UPK would experience a 98% reduction in months of learning, for reading.
The term in the report is “Local Landscape,” which is an outline of the various resources (programs and agencies), available in Davis, for those in search of preschool opportunities.
They are, as listed: Family Day Care; Private Preschool; Child Development Programs; Head Start – Federally Funded; State Preschool – State Funded; Publicly Administered, Fee-Based Programs; and the Davis Parent Nursery School (DPNS).
In the section of the report entitled Poverty Level, percentages are given for those “Living below 100% of the federal poverty level” and “Living in the 100-200% of the FPL.”
The chart was courtesy of Yolo First Five, Yolo County Board of Education, and Harder & Associates, while the source of information came from the U.S. Census, American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimate, 2010-2104.
One of five locations included, Davis clocked in with 6% of its residents living below 100% of the FPL, and 16% living at 100-200% of the FPL.
Over one quarter (26%) of West Sacramento residents live below 100% of the FPL.
The numbers are not much better for Woodland, which, according to the chart, has 21% of its population living below 100% of the FPL.
Woodland and its numbers resemble those for Rural Yolo (22%) and the entire Yolo County (19%).
The next section of the report is on the number of preschool slots, with its source being the California Department of Social Services ad City of Davis Child Care Resource & Referral Program.
Of the locations listed, Davis is the most active, with a total of 1,743 slots: 1,535 Preschool Center Slots and 208 Family Child Care Home Slots for Preschool-Age Children.
According to numbers from what appeared in 2014, there were 1,231 children that attended a preschool in Davis, which accounts for filling 71% of the slots and rests 16% better than the Yolo County average of 55% of the slots filled.